This report documents how education “quarterbacks” (formerly known as harbormasters) have supported governance reform in three cities, and why and how they were effective. This exploration of why districts need governance reform and how to catalyze and implement it focuses on the following questions: (1) Why did the education quarterbacks in these cities take the steps they did? (2) How did those actions ultimately lead to and support a new governance structure? (3) What lessons can other city-based education organizations take from their pioneering experiences? The report identifies eight actions consistently observed among the three profiled quarterbacks: The Mind Trust (Indianapolis), Empower Schools (Springfield), and New Schools for New Orleans. Although the conditions, people, and steps are specific to each city, all three education quarterbacks performed most, if not all, of these actions to catalyze governance reform and support successful implementation.
High Market Share Cities
Marking the 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, this report describes the transformation of public education in New Orleans and considers needed improvements for the next decade to create an excellent system of public schools in New Orleans. The report highlights how the shift to a decentralized system of public charter schools combined with a relentless effort to replace failing schools has produced remarkable gains in student academic achievement and fundamentally changed the role of government in education, the local labor market for educators, and the relationship between New Orleans communities and schools. The report also considers how the pace and magnitude of change presented many challenges to parents, educators, and community members, and discusses what needs to happen next to propel the city to even higher levels of achievement.
With its charter school market share expected to reach nearly 40 percent by 2018–19, Newark, N.J., is approaching the point where the effects of charter sector growth on traditional schools are impossible to overlook. This case study, commissioned by Startup:Education, examines the forces that helped grow the charter sector in Newark, and the opportunities and issues that arise for both charters and the district when the charter sector grows large. In Newark, philanthropic and bipartisan political leaders have teamed up to increase high-quality education options for all Newark students by both growing the charter sector and transforming the district into a financially sustainable model of effective reform. This case study explores what happens when a rapidly growing, high-quality charter sector pushes district reform, and the lessons other cities and districts with a growing charter presence can take from Newark.
Charter schools have grown in the past 25 years from a ragtag insurgency into a serious force in American K–12 education. This report examines how districts work with the charters in their midst—in Boston, Cleveland, Denver, Houston, and Washington, D.C.—through three questions: How are districts engaging charters? Why do districts choose to engage charters? And has engagement resulted in improvement? Engagement presents potential benefits and risks—for charters, districts, and the public. This study found markedly different forms of engagement reminiscent of international relations. From Washington’s “superpower summit” through Boston’s “protectionism under pressure,” the shifting district-charter interplay highlighted in this report may begin to point the way to a new world order in public education.
From 2010 to 2015, Tennessee’s charter sector grew from 29 schools serving 5,500 students to 98 schools and 29,000 students, including 24 multi-school networks operating in the state. This report describes how the convergence of favorable policy conditions, political leadership, and public-private grants accelerated the growth of high-quality charter schools committed to underserved communities in Memphis and Nashville. The report also examines strategies that the Tennessee Charter School Incubator and the Charter School Growth Fund used to identify and develop promising new school leaders and to start and expand high-performing charter organizations. The Tennessee story provides a lesson for education leaders in how to create the conditions conducive to growing a high-quality charter sector.
Public Impact teamed up with New Schools for New Orleans to develop a guide for cities interested in dramatically growing their charter school sectors as part of an effort to turn around persistently low-performing urban school systems. This Guide builds on dozens of interviews with education and community leaders in New Orleans, insights from national experts who have supported the rebuilding efforts, and research and reporting on New Orleans’ education reforms. Centered around three key strategies: 1) strong governance and accountability, 2) building human capital pipelines to fuel the growth of schools and 3) incubating new schools and growing proven schools into networks, the Guide illustrates recommendations with vignettes of work done by bold school leaders and reformers. The Guide also looks toward long-term sustainability of this new system, exploring topics such as building community demand and support for school reforms, developing a fiscally-balanced system that doesn’t rely long-term on philanthropy, and planning ahead for the new types of challenges that face a decentralized system of schools in areas such as transportation, equitable access, and transparent system oversight.